Book review: His Father’s Son by Tony Black

IN THIS semi-autobiographical tale of the complex bond between a father and son, it is the strength of crime writer Tony Black’s storytelling that drives home the novel’s poignancy.

Crime writer Tony Black. Picture: Ian Rutherford

His Father’s Son

Tony Black

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Black & White Publishing, £11.99

Whether Joey Driscol, his haunted protagonist, is telling his neighbours about the time an unwelcome creature followed him into the toilet, or recalling how he was forced to leave Ireland by the shame of his past, every tale carries the weight of history.

Joey and his wife Shauna are forced to leave Ireland for a new life, seeking a fresh start and a brighter future. They find themselves in Australia, where they raise their son Marti. But although the sky is blue and the work steady, the pressure of the past is crushing.

Shauna is dealing with depression, Joey is battling his weakness for whisky, and their desperate determination to see their son on the right path seems to be leading him down the wrong one. Eventually, circumstances drive the fractured family back to Ireland, where they are forced to face their past in order to have any hope for the future.

The notion that a father’s mistakes can impact on a child’s life is hardly new, but Black takes us inside the minds of Joey and Martin. For Joey, avoiding his father’s mistakes is paramount, while Marti is so eager to heal his parents’ relationship that he makes costly mistakes of his own.

Shauna’s depression is an unknown beast to Marti, and an unwelcome familiar to Joey. Marital problems are a source of anger for the father, and anxiety for the son, while returning to Ireland is something the son can look forward to at the same time as a reminder of failure to his father. Back in the Old Country, Marti is faced with the religion his parents sought to escape, Shauna is confronted by the shame she could never shake off, and Joey is forced to face his father – the man he tried to avoid becoming. Black’s vision of Ireland in the 1970s is thick with the cultural expectations the family tried to leave far behind.

This is a tale of father and son, man and wife, and how a journey to be reunited can mean rediscovering part of yourself that was buried long ago – and Black tells it perfectly.